Surprising reasons why women love yoga
“Yoga is for middle-class women who don´t know sports”. This comment, pronounced by a male colleague of a close friend, was directed at her to let her know that she was not really into exercise. The challenging discipline of yoga, it seems, does not stand the test against the more male-dominated spheres of the world of sports. A hearty round of snickering by fellow colleagues ensued. They all agreed — yoga was a woman´s thing, and therefore, something which could be derided or talked down on.
Recent articles ( like this one in the Washington Post) try to decipher why the ratio of women to men is 8 to 2 across the US and around the world. Most articles proclaim that given its gentle pace, emphasis on non-competition, and focus on suppleness rather than muscle-building, the discipline of yoga might be perceived as a “gentler” form of exercise in the eyes of women the world over.
All of these articles cite these reasons as the leading factors in the feminisation of yoga. Low and behold, none of these articles mention why yoga is so appropriate for women — they mention why men are not attracted to it. Add in the comment thrown at my friend, and here we have the latest example of everyday sexism women encounter everywhere. Call me crazy, but I´ve never heard of Cross Fit being derided as a substitute for military training by wimpy office guys who wanted to feel like Rambo in their out-of-office hours.
All of these articles cite the reasons why men don´t feel comfortable with practising yoga, but none of them delve into why more women are drawn to yoga aside from the fact that we are more supple and more “touchy-feely”.
On the contrary, has anyone ever thought that maybe the world of fitness and sports just did not cater to women on the whole?
Think about it. Picture an average gym full of guys pumping iron. Hear the loud thump of the workout music, and smell that mix of plastic and sweat, only ever-slightly covered by antibacterial room freshener. Picture going into a class where the raucous of that music is in direct competition with the hyper-ventilating gym instructor, shouting instructions into their ear piece microphone. Now, call me crazy, but is it not better to exercise in a room that smells like essential oils and soothing music?
The next advantage: yoga teachers will not bawl instructions at you. They will not remind you that you must “feel the burn” so you can work off that cinnamon bun you sneaked in during this morning´s meeting. On the contrary — yoga teachers refer to your body in a loving way, helping women the world over escape, at least for an hour, the self-consciousness, the judgements, and the relentless pursuit of calorie-counting that surrounds our post-modern existence.
In a yoga class, women´s bodies then stop being our enemies. Also, given we are naturally more flexible, we find that we are more endowed for this kind of exercise. Now think back about your school years and tell me how often that happened when compared to your male school buddies. And even if you were, name a time when boys did not act surprised or downright mean if you, or any girl, outperformed them in sports.
So with yoga, women that have been put off from the world of sports recover a world lost forgotten — one where body-shaming terms like “bingo wings”, “thunder thighs”, and “muffin tops” are banished and our bodies are considered assets, not imperfect creations which must be sculpted.
As we practice more and more, we need our arms, legs and abs to grow stronger — so we can reach and hold the poses, not so we can shred a few inches off our waist to show off in a crop top or to fit into skinny jeans.
Just a few reasons why women love yoga — what do you think? Do you know any others?
(this text was originally published in my blog Racional y Emocional)